Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/11/2014
UCLA Bruins at Texas Longhorns, Saturday Sept. 13, 8:00 p.m. ET
You could call this game the Jim Mora Jr. Bowl. It won't be the deciding factor by any means, but you have to love this storyline - UCLA head coach Mora was offered a truckload of cash in January to become the next Texas head coach, but he turned it down and Charlie Strong wound up in the position. Until recently it would have been impossible to imagine a coach choosing UCLA in this situation, but the Bruins are investing heavily in their program, and the combination of intense scrutiny, impossible expectations and roster limitations mean that Texas isn't the dream position it once was -- for now at least. You have to wonder if Strong will steal a look over to the other sideline at any point during the game and think that it's only because Mora didn't want the job that he has it.
At this point Strong is probably cursing Mora instead of thanking him. His tenure at Texas has likely not been pleasant. He wasn't exactly warmly embraced when he started -- an inevitability when you take a job that Mora, Nick Saban and others turned down. The intense media pressure and endless obligations has to be a strain for a guy as quiet as Strong.
He was forced to kick seemingly half of his players off the team in the offseason. He was absolutely humiliated in a wildly-lopsided loss to BYU in the second week on the job. And, now and most pressingly, he doesn't really have a quarterback -- at least not one he can trust. David Ash is out for several weeks with concussion issues that started after the opener, so redshirt freshman Tyrone Swoopes has had to step up. He's tremendously talented, but he doesn't seem ready for primetime just yet. He looked rough in his first start against BYU, and it's hard to believe that he will take a big step forward against a better overall defense here. It's not his fault, though -- his offensive line is wildly-inexperienced after starting center Dominic Espinosa broke his ankle and both starting tackles were suspended. Texas will again struggle to establish the run, and that will put more pressure on a QB who certainly doesn't need it.
UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns Betting Storylines
Of course, it's not like things all are sunshine and lollipops for the Bruins even though they are 2-0. Heading into the season they were a popular pick not just to win the Pac-12 but to contend for a National Championship, and QB Brett Hundley was a strong Heisman candidate. Two games later the team has dropped five spots in the poll despite winning because Hundley struggled badly in the opener and the team has been very lucky to beat Memphis and Virginia -- hardly the two best teams in the country right now. Hundley will need to be sharp in this one, but there is reason for optimism. He is a dual-threat QB (though the run has not been emphasized this year like it was last year), and BYU's Taysom Hill ran for three touchdowns as his team piled up 41 yards on the Longhorns last week. Hundley is a better passer than Hill, so a more balanced offense has a good chance to have a strong day against what has proven to be a deeply-flawed Texas defense.
At this point it is tough to know if the neutral setting for this game -- it will be played at the palatial home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington instead of in Austin -- is a blessing or a curse for the Longhorns. They would be more comfortable in the cozy confines of their home facilities, but after the BYU debacle the fanbase isn't happy, so some distance could be a good thing. There will still be no shortage of Texas fans at the game, though the neutral site will make it easier for UCLA loyalists to get in and make their presence known, too.
UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with UCLA favored by six points, but that almost instantly jumped to seven. The spread has mostly remained stable at a touchdown, though 7.5 and even eight can be found in some spots. Public support is overwhelmingly on the Bruins with well over 85 percent of bets on the favorite. The total sits at 50 points.
These teams last met in 2010 and 2011. The Bruins pulled a big upset at 15.5-point underdogs in the first game, but Texas returned the favor and won by 29 the next year. The Bruins have gone "under" the total in each of their last seven games away from home. There may be a good side to Texas' massive loss last week -- they have gone under the total six times in a row in games following 20+ point losses.
UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns NCAA Football Expert Predictions and Picks
As a general rule I am very skeptical of the betting public, so I really don't like being on the same side as a massive majority of bettors. I am also slightly concerned that the line has not gone up more than it has despite the lopsided betting -- a sign, perhaps, that sharp money is on Texas to some extent. Still, I can't avoid going with the Bruins. They are better than they have looked in the first two games, and this is a chance to prove it. They are going to be able to disrupt the Texas offensive line, and that will set the tone on that side of the ball -- Texas will struggle to score. When UCLA has the ball they should be able to gain yards and score points. If UCLA doesn't win this one convincingly then they are not nearly the team that people thought they were. The Bruins are the play.
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